SEC Football Predictions 2013
By Matt Hetzler
SEC East Predictions 2013
Offense: Aaron Murray is back for the Bulldogs. Murray is back with a better offense than last season's record setting team. The offense will return almost everyone. Murray will be in the Heisman mix if he can keep the Bulldogs unbeaten for another matchup with Alabama. Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall will be back. Gurley rushed for 1,385 yards as a freshman. The receiving core will be excellent this season with players like Malcolm Mitchell, Chris Conley, and the return of Michael Bennett. They return the entire offensive line, where they will need to improve from last season.
Defense: The defense will have many question marks coming into the season. There are still battles for position still going on so it’s hard to know the starting lineup come opening week. They return Garrison Smith on the end. Jordan Jenkins and Amarlo Herrera will be a part of linebacker core in the middle of the defense. There are a lot of question marks surrounding the secondary. Damian Swann is the only returning player in the secondary.
Special Teams: Marshall Morgan will return as kicker for the Georgia Bulldogs. Colin Barber will be back as the starting punter. Both will be sophomores and Georgia will want more consistency out of Morgan.
Final Thoughts: Georgia is going to be very good. The offense averaged 37.8 PPG last season and that should increase this season. With all the question marks surrounding the defense, Aaron Murray and the offense will have to play well. Georgia opens the season playing Clemson and South Carolina. Those two games will set the tone for this team and we will know if they are for real at the end of week 2. They get LSU at home in week 4 and then get a nice schedule until November against Florida. A nice schedule sets up well for Georgia to make another run at Atlanta and a potential rematch against Alabama.
2.) South Carolina
Offense: South Carolina returns QB Connor Shaw who will be in a two QB system with Dylan Thompson. Shaw will run, Thompson will throw. South Carolina loses Marcus Lattimore and Mike Davis will have to fill those big shoes. Bruce Ellington returns at wideout and will provide a big target for Shaw and Thompson. The offensive line returns 4 starters from last year’s squad.
Defense: The defense will return only a handful of starters from last season’s team. One of those players will be Heisman hopeful Jadeveon Clowney. Clowney is a beast and is the most dangerous player on the field. The linebacker core has no starters from last season, so inexperience will be a factor. The secondary returns 3 starters including both Victor Hampton and Jimmy Legree at the corners.
Special Teams: Landon Ard will handle the kicking game for the Gamecocks this season. Ard is a sophomore and this will be his first year as the starter. South Carolina will have junior punter Tyler Hull returning. Ellington and Hampton will be returning kicks.
Final Thoughts South Carolina has the pieces to make a run at an SEC East title. The schedule sets up well for them with everyone big game at home, with the exception of Georgia in week 2. Big non-conference games against North Carolina and Clemson will determine if they can get a BCS at-large bid come January. With an undefeated season I could see Clowney winning the Heisman, but the odds are stacked against him. I like South Carolina, but the road game at Georgia has me worried with the inexperience on defense.
Offense: Jeff Driskel returns at QB for Will Muschamp's Florida Gators. Driskel didn't turn the ball over much but he only threw for 1,646 yards. Sophomore Matt Jones starts at running back for the Gators. Jones has a lot of upside. Quinton Dunbar returns and he's joined by Demarcus Robinson at wideout. The line returns only 2 starters from a year ago, but the line should be fine this season.
Defense: The defense returns only a handful of full time starters that ranked 5th in total yards in the NCAA a year ago, but this year’s defense could be better. Jonathan Bullard and Dante Fowler Jr. will bring the pass rush from the ends. Roland Powell and Antonio Morrison should be starting at the linebacker position. The secondary returns 3 starters from last season.
Special Teams: Florida loses kicker Caleb Sturgis and will look to replace him with Brad Phillips or Austin Hardin. Kyle Christy returns as punter after a record setting season.
Final Thoughts: Florida should be a fairly balanced team. The defense could be a special group. I have some concerns with the offense. With games against Georgia, at Miami, at LSU and at South Carolina, I think this team drops 3 conference games, good enough to finish 3rd.
Final Thoughts: James Franklin is a tremendous coach, he has completely turned around the Vanderbilt program. The offense returns Jordan Matthews who is one of the best receivers in the SEC. The line is experienced as well. The defense has some new faces but returns 6 players from last season's squad. Vandy opens with Ole Miss at home, a win for Vandy could set them up well for the rest of the season. Vandy gets Georgia at home, but has road games at South Carolina, Texas A&M, Florida, and Tennessee. I don't think Vandy will get to 9 wins like last season.
Final Thoughts: Butch Jones replaces Derek Dooley as head coach for 2013. Jones will turn to QB Justin Worley to lead the offense. Worley will have Rajion Neal as a weapon out of the backfield. Tennessee lost Patterson and Hunter at wideout, so replacing that production will be hard to do. The offensive line returns 4 starters. On the defensive side of the ball the Vols return 8 starters from a defense that finished 14th in total defense in the SEC a year ago. I'd like to think they can only get better with experience. Tennessee gets to play 3 cupcakes in the first 5 games. Road games at Oregon, Florida, and Alabama are brutal. Tennessee finishes the season with 4 winnable games that could determine if they reach a bowl game or not.
Final Thoughts: James Franklin will be the reason Missouri can hang around in some games this season. Franklin is extremely talented and with targets Dorial Green-Beckham and L'Damian Washington this offense could be explosive at times. Missouri returns 15 starters total from a year ago. The offense and defense both need to get better, as the finished near the bottom of the league in both total offense and defense. Missouri has a touch SEC schedule this season. They get Florida, South Carolina, Tennessee and Texas A&M at home, but play Vandy, Georgia, and Ole Miss on the road.
Final Thoughts: Kentucky is coming off of a win-less SEC campaign in 2012. Mark Stoops is the new head coach at Kentucky and he had a solid recruiting class. With not many returning starters, this is going to be a young and inexperienced team. Kentucky's schedule does not really help them either. I think it will be a rough season for the Wildcats with new coaches. Another win-less SEC campaign is not out of the question here. The Wildcats are a few years away from becoming a decent team in the SEC.
SEC West Predictions 2013
Offense: AJ McCarron is back for the Crimson Tide, who are looking to win a third consecutive BCS National Title. McCarron led the nation in passing efficiency last season. McCarron should be in the Heisman talk at the end of the season, as he is one of the best QB's in the country. TJ Yeldon will join McCarron in the backfield. Yeldon is coming off of a great freshman season, where he piled up over 1,100 yards and 12 touchdowns. Amari Cooper and Kevin Norwood will return as targets for McCarron. The receiving core will be one of the best in the country. The offensive line looks to replace 3 starters, but returning is Cyrus Kouandjio who will certainly be a top 5 draft pick.
Defense: The defensive line returns only Ed Stinson from last season. Juniors Jeoffrey Pagan and Brandon Ivory should see time with Stinson up front. The linebackers are full with experience and depth. They return everyone from last season’s best defense in the nation. C.J. Mosley, Trey DePriest, Xavier Dickson all return. Deion Belue and sophomore Geno Smith will man the corners, while Ha Ha Clinton-Dix and Landon Collins will be at the back of the defense.
Special Teams: Alabama returns both starting kicker and punter. Cade Foster was used to attempt long field goals and kickoffs in Alabama's two kicker system. The Tide have a redshirt freshman who could be used named Adam Griffith. Cody Mandell will return as the punter.
Final thoughts: Alabama is stacked yet again this season. The offense will be one of the best in the country. AJ McCarron is a solid QB and has the experience of two national championships. Alabama will be great on defense and could very well best last season’s numbers, This team is destined to win another title, and I think come January they will be raising another crystal football.
Offense: The LSU offense returns quite a few players from last season. None has more pressure than QB Zach Mettenberger. Mettenberger looks great in some games and terrible in others. LSU has a new offense coordinator (Cam Cameron) so it will be exciting to see how Mettenberger responds. It looks like Jeremy Hill will be the top back for LSU after being brought back to the team. LSU will still have Alfred Blue and Kenny Hillard as backups. Odell Beckham Jr. is a play maker and returns for the Tigers at WR. Beckhams success will rely on how well Mettenberger grasps the new system. Jarvis Landry was Mettenberger's top receiver last season and he returns as well. LSU returns 3 starters on the offensive line.
Defense On the defensive side of the ball, LSU will look to rebuild a defense that returns only 3 starters. The entire defensive line will be new faces, but they are still a talented group. Lamin Barrow is the only returning linebacker. Barrow had 104 tackles last season. The secondary will also need to rebuild, returning only Craig Loston at safety and Jalen Mills at corner.
Special Teams: James Hairston will handle the kicking duties for LSU, while Jamie Keehn will be the punter. Keehn will replace Brad Wing.
Final Thoughts: LSU has been hurt by early departures for the NFL. Many have said it will be a rebuilding year, but I wouldn't count out Les Miles. He is one of the best coaches in college football and he always gets the best from his players. The team is young on defense but still incredibly talented. But the offense should be fine, and if Mettenberger can produce there is no reason this team can't compete with Alabama in the SEC West.
3.) Texas A&M
Offense: QB Johnny Manziel headlines the Aggies as they come into their second season in the SEC. Manziel burst onto the scene last year, winning the Heisman as a freshman and beating Alabama in Alabama. The offense led the SEC in total offense a season ago. They lose Luke Joeckel on the offensive line, but Jake Matthews returns for the Aggies and could be a top 5-10 player drafted next year. Mike Evans is back and he will look to be even better than a year ago. Evans caught 82 passes and went for over 1,100 yards. Ben Malena and Trey Williams return to the Aggies backfield. Oklahoma transfer Brandon Williams will provide even more depth at the RB position.
Defense: The defense will have some question marks as they enter the new season. The front line loses a couple of players from a season ago. Kirby Ennis and Julien Obioha are coming back from injuries. Steven Jenkins returns at linebacker looking to build off a great season a year ago. Jenkins will be the main man in the middle of the defense. The secondary will be the highlight of the Aggies defense. Deshazor Everett and De'Vante Harris will man the corners, while Howard Matthews and Floyd Raven will play deep.
Special Teams: Texas A&M will return kicker Taylor Bertolet, which really doesn't mean much. Bertolet struggled as a freshman making only 2-9 field goals. Drew Kaser will be the starting punter, replacing Ryan Epperson. The return game should be one of the best in college football with Brandon Williams and Trey Williams.
Final Thoughts: There is little doubt that Manziel can play at a high level. I am concerned with all the off field issues and his attitude. Luckily for the Aggies the schedule sets up well for them with getting Alabama at home. But road trips to LSU and Ole Miss could be big games for them. I like the offense but the defense raises a lot of questions for me. I see them winning 9-10 games.
4.) Ole Miss
Final Thoughts: Ole Miss comes into the season rolling, the recruiting class has created a buzz in Oxford. The Rebels return a ton of starters from last year, a team that went 7-6. The offense will look to build off an outstanding season where they finished 5th in total offense in the SEC. The schedule is a bit brutal at the beginning with road trips to Vandy, Texas, Alabama, and Auburn. But then they get 6 straight home games before finishing with a huge game at rival Mississippi State. I love the offense and I think the defense will be well improved. If they had a more favorable schedule I think this could be a great year for Ole Miss. But I think a 8 win season is realistic.
Final Thoughts: Auburn is still continuing to rebuild on the Plains. They brought in Gus Malzhan to replace Gene Chizik after a winless SEC campaign last season. JUCO transfer Nick Marshall will be the starting QB for Malzhan's offense, which returns plenty of talent. Look for Auburn to improve drastically on the offensive side of the ball. The defense is well experienced and has a handful of playmakers. The kicking game is also solid for the Tigers. Auburn had 5 of their first 6 games at home. All of those games are winnable in my opinion. Road trips to A&M, Arkansas and Tennessee are in the back half of the schedule, finishing with Georgia and Alabama at home. I think this team has plenty of potential and should be competitive in most games. The road trips to Arkansas and Tennessee can make or break the season.
6.) Mississippi State
Final Thoughts: Mississippi State returns QB Tyler Russell and RB LaDarius Perkins. Both players had solid campaigns a year ago. The offensive line will be a strong point this season. The receiving core is the biggest issue as the season begins. The defense will feature a lot of new players, especially the secondary. After starting 7-0 last season against weak opponents, they dropped 5 of 6. The schedule is a bit tougher this season with road games at Auburn, South Carolina, Texas A&M, and a neutral site game vs Oklahoma State in week 1. The Bulldogs get Bama, LSU, and Ole Miss at home, although I don't see those games being very favorable matchups. I think it will be a tough season for the Bulldogs.
Final Thoughts: The offense will have a tough year in a stacked SEC West. They return only a handful of starters. A new offense is being put into place behind new coach Bret Bielema. The defense was awful last season and it should be again this season. The schedule doesn't set up well either for Arkansas with four straight games against A&M, at Florida, South Carolina, and at Alabama. If they survive that stretch they get Auburn at home, then are away the last 3. I think Arkansas could go winless in the SEC.